Welcome back, Franklin Pierce. The moniker of our 14th president is returning to legal education after a nine-year absence. University of New Hampshire Law School dean Megan Carpenter announced Tuesday that the Concord campus will henceforth be known as the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law after years of alumni requests. The new name will also capitalize on the school’s reputation as an intellectual property powerhouse, according to Carpenter.
It’s the latest twist for a law school that has seen significant change over the past decade. The campus was founded in 1973 as the independent Franklin Pierce Law School, and it established one of the most respected intellectual property programs in the country. (Pierce, a lawyer who died in 1869, was a New Hampshire native.) The University of New Hampshire acquired the state’s only law school in 2010 and dropped the Franklin Pierce name altogether. At the time, the school’s admissions dean said her office fielded many questions from prospective students about who Franklin Pierce is.
But alumni of the school felt differently, according to Carpenter, who unveiled the news to members of the law school community at the Intellectual Trademark Association’s annual meeting in Boston this week.
“I want to tell you—honestly—the biggest question I’m asked from all of you is, ‘Can we get Franklin Pierce back into the name of the school?’ ” Carpenter said during her announcement of the change. “I’ve been asked that three times today alone. I’m here to tell you tonight that we have heard you. You, the University of New Hampshire, and us together, have decided that effective today, right now, our law school is the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law.”
The announcement was met with a roar of approval from the assembled crowd.
Recent naming controversies at law schools have highlighted the sensitive nature of institutional monikers and the deep attachment alumni sometimes feel to them. The University of California, Berkeley School of Law last year opted to drop its informal “Boalt Hall” name after researchers revealed the racist past of namesake John Boalt. But the law school community was evenly split over ditching the name, dean Erwin Chemerinsky said at the time. Florida State University is currently trying to strip the name of former Florida Supreme Court Justice B.K. Roberts from its law school campus, but has run into legislative roadblocks. (Critics have taken issue with Robert’s opposition to racial integration from the bench.)
Franklin Pierce—the former president—hasn’t come under that type of scrutiny, though he opposed the abolitionist movement in the run-up to the Civil War. But alumni feel an affinity for the name and its connection to the school’s history. And the Franklin Pierce association with intellectual property excellence is worth preserving, according to Carpenter.
“The Franklin Pierce name is considered the gold standard for intellectual property internationally,” she said in a statement on the change. “We’re confident welcoming Franklin Pierce back into our name will build new bridges globally as well as enhance relationships with our alumni.”